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Astronomy Colloquium

Wednesday, April 5, 2023
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Cahill, Hameetman Auditorium
Illuminating the Origins of the Universe's Fastest Transients
Wen-fai Fong, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northwestern University,

When we look up at the night sky, we see a static universe. However, observational surveys have revealed that our universe is dynamic, with a myriad of transient events. One of the most captivating contributors to our transient universe are energetic and fast explosions called short gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs). Derived from the mergers of neutron stars and/or black holes, they serve as unique laboratories to study the launching of relativistic jets, the production of heavy elements, and the emission of gravitational waves. In this talk, I describe our quest to understand the imprints of SGRBs on the universe through our superlative discoveries and observational legacy catalogs. In particular, I present our results on their role in heavy element nucleosynthesis, the environmental conditions for their formation and evolution over cosmic time, and their connection to the transformative era of multi-messenger gravitational wave astronomy. I also demonstrate how the skills leveraged in illuminating the origins of SGRBs can be directly applied to the relatively new and enigmatic class of fast radio bursts.

To view this talk via YouTube, please visit:

For more information, please contact Dimitri Mawet by email at [email protected] or visit